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Seismic Design of Buried Pipelines in Indian

Suresh R Dash1 , Sudhir K Jain2
Senior Project Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian insitute of Technology Kanpur,
Kanpur, UP - 208016
Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur,
Kanpur, UP- 208016.

Pipelines are important lifeline facilities spread over large area and encounter a range of seismic hazards and soil
conditions. Many buried pipelines in India run through high seismic areas and therefore are exposed to considerable
risk. This paper describes the various modes of pipeline failures. It reviews pipeline performance in past Indian
earthquakes. Though the world scenario on seismic design of pipelines has advanced a lot, still in India there is no
uniform guideline available for seismic design of pipelines. For the growing network of pipelines in India, it is becoming
very important to establish a standard for seismic design of pipelines to ensure a uniform approach to the problem,
and ensure a minimal degree of safety.

INTRODUCTION hazards that are responsible for pipeline failure can be

Pipelines are generally spread over a large geographical described as:
region and encounter a wide variety of seismic hazards and 1) Seismic wave propagation
soil conditions. The pipelines are generally buried below 2) Abrupt permanent ground displacement (faulting)
ground for aesthetic, safety, economic and environmental
3) Permanent ground deformation (PGD) related to
reasons. The gas and liquid fuel pipelines are generally
soil failures:
welded at the joints to act as a continuous pipeline. On the
other hand, the water supply pipelines with mechanical joints a. Longitudinal PGD
are generally treated as segmented pipelines. b. Transverse PGD
Modern pipelines manufactured with ductile steel with c. Landslide
full penetration butt welds at joints possess good ductility. 4) Buoyancy due to liquefaction
It has been observed that the overall performance record of
oil and gas pipeline systems in past earthquakes was
Defects, 10%
Corrosion, 5%
relatively good. However catastrophic failures did occur in Others, 32%
many cases, particularly in areas of unstable soils. Failures Movement, 3%

have mostly been caused by large permanent soil Environmental

displacements (FEMA-233).
Cracking, 2%


From the past observations, about 3% of natural gas

pipeline failures in USA are due to the effect of ground Figure 1: Causes of natural gas pipeline failures in USA during
movement due to seismic event (Figure-1). The main seismic 1884-1990 (PRCI, 2003).

The main failure modes of both continuous and displacement. The relative movement is distributed over a
segmented pipelines are summarized in the following. large distance and hence the compressive strains in the
Continuous pipeline pipeline are not too large and the potential for tearing of
the pipe wall is less. For this reason, beam buckling of a
Tensile failure
pipeline for a ground compression zone is considered more
Tensile strain in the pipeline can arise due to any of the desirable than local buckling. Beam buckling generally
seismic hazards (e.g., faulting, landslide, liquefaction, and occurs in pipelines buried at shallow depths of about 3 feet
relative ground motion) at pipe supports. Figure-2 illustrates or less. This can also happen during post-earthquake
the effect of landslide on the pipeline resisting high tensile excavations, which are carried out deliberately to relieve
strain. compressive strain in the pipes. Figure-4 shows beam
buckling of a water pipeline made of iron during the M7.8
San Francisco earthquake in 1906.

Figure 2: Effect of landslide on pipeline resisting tensile strain

(ASCE, 1984).
Figure 4: Beam buckling of a water pipeline made of iron.
Local buckling (USGS Photo Library)
Local buckling or wrinkling in pipeline occurs due to Segmented pipeline
local instability of the pipe wall. Once the initiation of local
shell wrinkling occurs, all subsequent wave propagation and Axial pull-out
geometric distortion caused by ground deformation tend to In the areas of tensile ground strain the common failure
concentrate at these wrinkles. Thus, the local curvature in mechanism of a segmented pipeline is axial pull-out at joints,
pipe wall becomes large and leads to circumferential since the shear strength of joint caulking material is much
cracking of the pipe wall and leakage. This is a common less than that of the pipe. Figure-5 shows a 30cm diameter
failure mode for steel pipes. Figure-3 illustrates local cast iron pipeline pulled apart 25cm during 1976 Tangshan
buckling of a 77 inch welded steel pipe during the 1994 earthquake.
Northridge earthquake.

Figure 3: Locally buckled steel gas pipeline in the compression

zone at North slope of Terminal Hill in 1994 Northridge
earthquake. (EERI, 1995)
Beam buckling Figure-5: Axial pull-out at the joint of a water supply pipeline
at Tangshan East Water Works in Tangshan Earthquake 1976
Beam buckling of a pipeline is similar to Euler buckling
(EERL, 2004)
of a slender column; the pipe undergoes an upward
Crushing of bell-and-spigot joints
In areas of compressive strain, crushing of bell-and-
spigot joints is a very common failure mechanism. Figure-6
shows the failure of a cast iron pipe due to failure of bell
and spigot joint at Navlakhi port area during Bhuj
earthquake of January-26, 2001.

Figure-8: Leaking at bell and spigot joint of water supply

pipeline due to bending at Shippy Ghat, Port Blair in M9.0
Sumatra earthquake of 2004 (Photo: Suresh R Dash)


Pipelines play a key role in the gas and oil supply
services in India. Figure-9 and 10 show major oil and gas
pipeline networks of India. The Gas Authority of India
Figure-6: Failed cast iron pipe due to failure of bell and spigot Limited (GAIL) operates and maintains over 1800 km of
joint at Navlakhi port due to lateral spread in 2001 Bhuj regional pipelines in western, southern and eastern regions
earthquake (ASCE, 2001) of India and is planning to establish a National Gas Grid by
laying approximately 7000 km of high-pressure transmission
Flanged joint failure gas pipelines in 15 states across the country. (http://
In the areas of tensile ground strain, flanged joint
pipeline may fail at joint due to breaking of the flange Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) supplies
connection. Figure-7 shows a flanged joint pipe failure due petroleum products to the various major demand centers
to higher tensile strain. and feeds crude oil to four major inland refineries with a
vast network of pipelines throughout India. IOCL pipelines
comprise of 4762 km of product pipeline and 2813 km of
crude oil pipeline. (
line.asp). Many short oil and gas pipelines are also running
throughout India whose data are not included herein.
The network of water supply and sewage pipelines are
much bigger than the gas and oil pipeline grid. But data on
these is not readily available. The seismic risk involved in
water pipelines is lower than that in oil and gas pipeline
systems. Therefore, from the view point of seismic design,
Figure- 7: Flanged joint pipe failure. (ASCE, 1997) greater importance is usually given to oil and gas pipelines
as compared to water or sewage pipelines.
Circumferential flexural failure and joint rotation Most of the pipelines used for supplying oil and gas are
When a segmented pipeline is subjected to bending buried underground. From the seismic zone map of India
induced by lateral permanent ground movement or seismic (Figure-11), it is seen that many of the pipelines are running
shaking, the ground curvature is accommodated by some through the high seismic regions.
combination of rotation of joints and flexure in the pipe Table-1 provides some information, even though
segments. The relative contribution of these two mechanisms incomplete, on the performance of pipelines in some past
depends on the joint rotation and pipe segment flexural Indian earthquakes. Table-1 should be viewed with two
stiffness. Figure-8 shows the pipeline leaking at its joint constraints: (a) pipeline network has been developed in
due to excessive bending in 2004 Sumatra earthquake. recent years only and no damage reports in the earlier
earthquakes are expected, and (b) there is no systematic that the pipeline networks are exposed to, it is important
data collection after most earthquakes on failure of that adequate consideration be given to seismic design of
pipelines. Considering the seismicity of India and the risk pipelines.

Figure-9: Major oil and gas pipeline network of India (

Figure-10: National gas grid of India (

Figure-11: Seismic zone map of India

In India, there is no specific standard or guideline that
Table-1: Performance of pipelines in some past deals with seismic evaluation and design of pipeline systems.
earthquakes in India Most of the agencies are following different codal provisions
and guidelines of other countries. Some have developed
Description M Pipeline performance their in-house procedures for seismic analysis and design.
of earthquake
Sumatra 9.0 Most of the water pipelines
Hence, there is no uniform approach to seismic protection
Earthquake, were damaged severely in of pipelines in India. Considering this need, the Gujarat
Dec-26, 2004 Andaman and Nicobar State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) have
Islands area. sponsored a project at IIT Kanpur for development of such
The oil pipelines performed guidelines. The first draft of the same will be available
There were some cases of
pipes with the facilities like The philosophy of seismic design for the pipelines is to
tanks, machines, etc.
Gujarat 7.7 Most of the liquid fuel
design the pipeline such that it will be able to maintain its
Earthquake, facilities not affected. supplying capability even after considerable local damage
January-26, Some damage occurred at due to high intensity earthquakes. The pipelines must be
2001 the junctions of pipeline to designed to have sufficient stiffness, strength, and ductility
the equipments at pump to resist the effects of seismic ground motions. The most
difficult part in pipeline design is to assess the seismic hazard
Chamoli 6.8 Water supply to Chamoli
Earthquake, and Gopeshwar towns associated with it. Sophisticated analysis cannot give better
March-29 was disrupted due to results if the seismic input to the analysis is off the mark.
1999 damage to the pipelines For the seismic design of pipelines, the main
by the landslides. considerations are seismic wave propagation and ground
Bihar 6.6 Some minor damage to few displacements due to soil failure. Mostly the strain in the
Earthquake, facilities of IOCL refinery
pipeline is the governing criteria for designing the pipeline.
August -21, at Barauni (Hulyalker,
1988 1988). Therefore, the procedure that is mainly employed for the
pipeline design is displacement based. For the analysis, the
nonlinearity of the pipe and the soil should be modeled.
DEVELOPMENT OF SEISMIC DESIGN For approximate analysis pseudo static method can be
GUIDELINES employed, but for detailed analysis nonlinear time history
The petroleum industry in the United States developed analysis or response spectrum analysis must be carried out.
interest in seismic design after the 1933 Long Beach CONCLUSIONS
earthquake. A major push to research on the subject was Pipelines are generally buried and spread over a large
given after the massive damage of pipeline systems due to geographical area. Tensile rupture, local or beam buckling
1971 San-Fernando earthquake. In 1974 the American are the principal modes of failure for continuous pipeline,
Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) formed a Technical whereas the rupture of individual pipelines, pull out of joints,
Council of Lifeline Earthquake Engineering (TCLEE) to excessive bending at joints are the principal failure modes
formally carryout continual development of guidelines for of segmented pipeline. We have pipeline grid spread all
seismic design of lifeline systems. over India, and many of the pipelines run through high
In a 1977 conference of ASCE, Kennedy et al. (1977) seismic zones. In world scenario, the development of
and Hall and Newmark (1977) proposed seismic design guidelines and codal provisions started from 1970s.
criteria for pipelines and facilities. In 1984, ASCE first However India is only now starting to develop its own
published formal guidelines (ASCE, 1984) for seismic standard for seismic design of pipelines.
design of pipeline systems to provide guidance on design, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
operation and maintenance of pipelines. This work has been supported through a project entitled
In 1974, the first seismic design code Technical Review of Building Codes and Preparation of Commentary
Standard for Oil Pipelines (JRA, 1974) was developed by and Handbooks awarded to IIT Kanpur by the Gujarat State
Japan Roads Association (Masayuki et al., 1992). In 1979, Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), Gandhinagar
seismic design criteria for waterworks and in 1982, seismic through World Bank finances. The views and opinions
design criteria for high, medium and low pressure pipelines expressed therein are those of the authors and not necessarily
were developed in Japan (Masayuki et al., 1992). those of the GSDMA or the World Bank.
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